It was still dark when I got up this morning. Well, dark-ish. Granted it stays dark later (and gets dark earlier) this time of year AND that it was a drizzly, grizzly, dank, overcast day—typical November in fact: but I like being a Scorpio—still. It was dark when I got up. Pavlova was like, oh, hey, MORE PLAY TIME* but the hellhounds were all, are you kidding?** Go away. I poured a certain amount of caffeine into the machinery, creaked, misfired, caught, moaned, and went outdoors to fumble uphill to Wolfgang.***
I was so terrified of being late picking up Aloysius that I left FABULOUS AMOUNTS OF TIME to get lost in. And then finding his house was as easy as Google maps said, which is not a given in my experience. So I was there about fifteen minutes early. You feel very conspicuous sitting at the end of a curate’s driveway at 8:30 on a Saturday morning.
As the minutes ticked by, and I tried not to catch the eye of any of the early joggers and newspaper-buyers and so on as they wended their legitimate ways through the little estate, I started to grow increasingly nervous about the lack of any signs of life in the house I was parked in front of. Maybe this wasn’t the right address. The development his house is in is one of these that has several lobes, and once you’ve passed the entrance and been told to go this way rather than that way . . . you’re kind of on your own. The individual courts are not marked. So you’re sitting there looking at this clearly dark, sleeping house six and a half minutes before you’re supposed to be picking up your native guide to deepest elsewhere and thinking, maybe you misread the signposts. Maybe this isn’t Borogove Crescent. Maybe this is Bandersnatch Close!
With five minutes to go, I crept up the walkway and tremblingly pressed the bell. A sudden uprush of bustling noises and the door was thrown open and a small person in a dressing gown beamed at me and said, “He’s just finishing getting dressed! He’ll be with you in a moment!” and I, relieved, thought, ah, what it is to be a pastor’s wife: smiling at importunate strangers who want your husband at 8:30 on a Saturday morning.
Tintinnabulation Abbey is beyond the back of beyond, and I have no idea how I’m going to find it again, barring rent-an-angel. You drive through several decreasingly tiny villages—I’m sure there was a border crossing involved—and then eventually you declare yourself in the hands of God, turn left into a forest, and . . . there it is. With electricity and central heating and everything.†
And monks. Wibble, as someone said on the forum recently. I am very grateful to have had Aloysius’ shadow to hide in, because despite the large sign saying VISITORS WELCOME and Aloysius’ conviction that services are open to the public it was pretty intimidating. No, make that VERY intimidating.
But the chapel holds grace the way a bowl holds roses, or that’s how it felt to me, even freaking out as I was about the monks. I think I told you that Aloysius had suggested I try Tintinnabulation because they have a silent-prayer service each week and, he said, the services generally have a nice sense of space to them. Yes.
The ridiculous thing is that of the churches I’ve tried so far—and barring my abbey they’ve all been recommended by some or other Christian friend, so I’m only going to the ones with a good reputation—this has been the first one that I’ve known pretty well immediately that I want to go back to. This finding a church thing is supposed to be about finding a community. Monks? I don’t think so.††
As promised, Aloysius took me round to the refectory after the service, for tea and monkish chat. Most of the latter went straight over my head††† but I did come away with a very sharp, vivid impression of the monks who hung out to drink hot liquids in the company of the hoi polloi. In one word: cranky. And I was thinking, hmmm, Christians so seriously committed they’ve gone the religious community route . . . cranky? Maybe there is a place for me somewhere in the monolithic C of E. Cranky I can do.
* * *
* We have another new game. This one is called . . . Whirlygig puppy. One of the silliest things Nemo did when Southdowner brought him here was lie down in a field when we were all out hurtling, forelegs stretched out in front of him and back legs stretched out bonelessly, or anyway hiplessly, behind him. Toy dog position: toy dog limbs are attached differently. And then he refused to get up. So Southdowner dragged him about halfway across the field (he was in a harness, not a collar, and furthermore this is clearly a vaudeville act). While I was falling down in helpless laughter—and hellhounds were looking on in consternation^—Southdowner said that this is a standard bullie silliness, and that when I had a bullie, because of course, I would have a bullie some day, he/she would do this too.
It took about a week for Pavlova to start lying like that, like a beanbag dog, and at first I worried about dragging her (playing tug indoors), she didn’t really weigh enough to provide stability and I was afraid of giving her carpet burn. But she is now a VAST CHUNK of fourteen pounds—she weighs a stone!—and belly-glides over the carpet as slickly as Dorothy Hamill^^ on the ice. This means we can start working on our routine. Whirlygig puppy. But our fabulous new move involves a quick flick of my wrist and gives Pavlova the impetus for a rollover. We’re still totally failing to learn ‘down’—the theory is that you get the ‘sit’ established and then lower the treat till the puppy has to lie down to get it. Uh huh. Anyway. Maybe we should just go straight to rolling over, which she clearly has a gift for.
^ I’m not sure if the consternation was for me or for Nemo. I can just about understand a bitch finding this a funny double act, but I would have thought a male dog would find that tiny clods and small splintery bits might get rammed up sensitive organs.
^^ Yes I’m that old.
** Also frelling Chaos is lame. He did something to himself that day we met the off lead Labrador/Godzilla cross, limped for a bit and seemed to get over it. I didn’t take it seriously because he’s a wuss—Darkness is the stoic one—but over the next couple of days it got worse. Last two days now we go out at dog walking speed—you know how SLOWLY a dog WALKS? They trot everywhere—so I can make the wretched animal put that leg down. After ten minutes or so the soreness (apparently) eases off and then he wants to run. Arrrrgh.
*** Who started better than I did. But he’s only seventeen.
† I forgot to check for free wifi.
†† I was also reassured by how many women—saints, bishops, nuns and ordinary members of the public—were mentioned during the service and, even better, one of their staff spiritual directors is a woman in a dog collar.
††† I have told Aloysius that my conversion was the whap up longside the head variety and I have no clue, and the only experience I ever had was in generic Protestant back in the States when I was a kiddie. He was clearly trying not to laugh when he said it was not surprising if I found the Church of England a little confusing.
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